An evening at home alone; no better way of alleviating that than a nice bottle of red. Cheap, obviously – this was for me alone. But this is where a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
One of the most enjoyable wines I have ever come across is the deliciously supple, bright and beautifully balanced Quinta do Correio, a Dão red available from the Marylebone wine merchants and bar Vinoteca. I managed to get CJ to drink it there just before Christmas, by the ruse of buying a bottle before he arrived, and hence before he could complain about the price to drink it at a table (£21.75) – and even he was very happy with it. (Even happier when they offered it at the excellent takeaway price of £9.30 if we vacated our table, to somebody eating, and finished our drinking at the bar.) So I thought I knew something about Dão.
So when I saw this Dão, with its elegant, minimal label, reduced in a City wine merchant’s sale from £7.95 to £4.95. I fooled myself into thinking that it was not one of CJ’s sub-£5 gut-rot specials. Oh no, this was a bargain, spotted by my knowledgeable eye. Spotted, admittedly, in a bin of wines with a big sign saying “Under £5”, but nevertheless.
The assistant went on for a bit, saying that she’d tasted it, how it needed to rest for a bit before drinking, etc etc. The back label endearingly described it as “A Soft medium bodied Dão wine to your delight” (sic). And I uttered the fatal words, “Well, how far wrong can you go for £4.95?”
To which a suitable response might have been, “Have you got your passport?”
Because this was a wiry, thin wine, unpleasant bordering on undrinkable. It had to be forced down, with my cheeks contracting like salted slugs. Its bouquet – no, correction, its fumes – reminded me of bathroom cleanser; it was bitter on the palate, and even sat in my stomach like a large, cold stone.
But one of our mottos is “I’ve bought it, so I’ll drink it”; I had planned a cosy evening alone with this bottle, and I was damned if it was going to beat me.
So, remembering the suggestion that it needed to rest for a bit, I thought I would try putting it through my recently-acquired Soirée aerator (as seen in the neck of the bottle above).
I already possess an aerator called a Magic Decanter, a gift from my offspring, about which I will write at length some day. But I am particularly proud of my new Soirée, because I won it in a competition on the excellent Blogyourwine site, with the kind of display of my wine knowledge which exasperates CJ, and leaves him glowering at me like a disgruntled Fred Emney.
I was determined not to be put off by the Soirée’s resemblance to an optic spirit measure, which suggested I might be intending to consume my wine by the shot. No, the wine swirls around in this little glass bowl as it leaves the bottle, and is thereby immediately aerated like a spell in a decanter.
And yes, the Soirée did soften the acridity of the wine quite considerably. Indeed, it could be said that the very name promises a softening of one’s drinking. Had I now embarked upon a soirée, with all its sophisticated undertones, and not just an evening of quite basic solo bottle-bashing?
Sadly not. Aeration cannot transform bad wine into good, and a softer bad wine is still…bad. I became steadily angrier at the stuff I was drinking, and the lengths to which I was going in order to try and render it drinkable. The effort/reward ratio was badly, badly skewed. Instead of returning to a relaxed and gently inebriated husband, Mrs K came home to find a fizzing ball of frustration, surrounded by half-finished glasses of wine; aerated, unaerated, poured, decanted and rested. And all, in their various ways, vile.
Mrs K will agree. There’s one thing that doesn’t benefit from getting aerated. Me.